, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 51-70
Date: 19 Nov 2010

Towards a pan-Arctic inventory of the species diversity of the macro- and megabenthic fauna of the Arctic shelf seas

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Although knowledge of Arctic seas has increased tremendously in the past decade, benthic diversity was investigated at regional scales only, and no attempt had been made to examine it across the entire Arctic. We present a first pan-Arctic account of the species diversity of the macro- and megabenthic fauna of the Arctic marginal shelf seas. It is based on an analysis of 25 published and unpublished species-level data sets, together encompassing 14 of the 19 marine Arctic shelf ecoregions and comprising a total of 2,636 species, including 847 Arthropoda, 668 Annelida, 392 Mollusca, 228 Echinodermata, and 501 species of other phyla. For the four major phyla, we also analyze the differences in faunal composition and diversity among the ecoregions. Furthermore, we compute gross estimates of the expected species numbers of these phyla on a regional scale. Extrapolated to the entire fauna and study area, we arrive at the conservative estimate that 3,900–4,700 macro- and megabenthic species can be expected to occur on the Arctic shelves. These numbers are smaller than analogous estimates for the Antarctic shelf but the difference is on the order of about two and thus less pronounced than previously assumed. On a global scale, the Arctic shelves are characterized by intermediate macro- and megabenthic species numbers. Our preliminary pan-Arctic inventory provides an urgently needed assessment of current diversity patterns that can be used by future investigations for evaluating the effects of climate change and anthropogenic activities in the Arctic.